Israel snubs EU aid workers in West Bank, Gaza

Israeli security forces hassle Palestinians crossing a checkpoint along Israel’s apartheid wall on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Bethlehem on 26 July 2013. (Photo: AFP – Musa al-Shaer)

Israel has halted cooperation with European delegates and aid workers in the West Bank and Gaza to protest the EU’s recent ban on funding projects in illegal Jewish settlements, media reported Friday.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon had given instructions to Israeli officials to “freeze contacts with European Union representatives in Area C” of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control, one official told AFP.

A western source cited by The Guardian newspaper said that Israel has also refused to grant permits to humanitarian workers affiliated with the EU who want to access the Gaza Strip.

“It’s inconceivable the EU acts the way it does and we would just accept it,” the Israeli official said.

The official added that Yaalon had given the orders to General Eitan Dangot, head of the Israeli military body in charge of civilian aspects of life in the Israeli controlled parts of the West Bank.

Since the West Bank is under Israeli military occupation, Yaalon – in his capacity as defense minister – is the supreme authority for the territory.

Published last Friday, the EU guidelines exclude Jewish entities in territories occupied by the Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967 – the Golan Heights, east Jerusalem and the West Bank – from financial cooperation agreements with the bloc.

The move raised a storm in Israel and was denounced by right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “an external diktat about our borders,” an issue that “will be decided upon only in direct negotiations between the sides.”

A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to tell AFP whether Yaalon’s move reflected a broader Israeli stance on relations with the EU.

A defense ministry official told AFP that Yaalon instructed Dangot to give European officials “the cold shoulder.”

“Meetings between Dangot’s and EU representatives were cancelled, projects and donations frozen, and requests to renew permits granted to EU officials and Palestinians for travel in the West Bank and to Gaza were rejected,” the official said.

A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said they were “concerned over these reports, but we have not received any official communication from the Israeli authorities.”

“What we are doing right now is, through our delegation on the ground, trying to get urgent clarification,” Maja Kocijancic said.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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